In a brief word, yes, you can.
There are some authors who are famous for one genre of writing and have written a manuscript in a completely different genre. As small as this action may seem, it is something that, if not received well, could ruin their reputation and harm book sales.
Why do authors publish anonymously?
This happens more often than you would think. When it does the author changes from his or her pen name or real name and publishes under a new non de plume. If you want no one to know that you wrote a particular book or are writing a rather controversial topic, then choosing to write under a pen name makes it possible for you to publish anonymously.
There are many reasons why people do not use their real names when they publish a book or magazine article.
Here are just a few of the reasons:
- The author values their privacy
- They enjoy creating new identities
- They do not like their real name or it is not memorable enough
- They do not want the fame that may come with their book's success
- They find that they have more freedom to write
- They just want to keep a distinct separation between all of their works
How do you publish anonymously (Traditional Publishing)
The process is still the same whether you publish using your real name or use a pen name. Because of the high level of competition, you have to be really good if you want traditional book publishers to consider your work worthy enough to publish.
Here are the steps you need to take when you do not want anyone to know you are the real author behind a work your friends and relatives think is scandalous:
#1. Write a very good manuscript
Because the publishing industry is very competitive, you need to hone your talent and make sure your work is a cut above the rest. You can do this by joining different writing groups and have your work critiqued by others then make appropriate adjustments.
#2. Choose a solid pen name
You can do this by studying other pen names already in use and make yours sound just as good. All you have to do is avoid duplication and hard to remember names.
#3. Be prepared for lack of public credit
This probably is the least of your worries, but I must mention it. Naturally, your friends and relatives will give credit to the persona you created - of course you can tell them it is you. But there wouldn't be much point if you went around telling the world it was you who wrote the book.
#4. Communicate your intentions
Your publisher and literary agent need to know it is you who is writing the book. Make sure to read the contract's small print to ensure you do not run into any legal issues that stop you from getting paid your royalties.
#5. Remind your publisher
Remind your publisher or literary agent throughout the publishing process that you want to remain anonymous. People tend to forget these little details, especially when your real name is used quite often during the process.
How Do You Publish Anonymously (Self-Publishing)
Publishing anonymously as a self-published author couldn't be easier. On platforms such as Amazon KDP you can very easily type your pen name in as you submit your book details. The best part is, the book is already linked to your account and there is nothing that can affect your royalties coming in.
The downside is if your book blows up, and you do not want your identity out there - there is always a possibility that one of the self-publishing platforms you use could leak your information.
The downside of writing anonymously
Writing without anyone knowing that it is you doing the work sounds romantic and fun. You get to see people's true reactions to your content whether that is family and friends or an existing audience already familiar with some of your other work, without them holding back like they would if they knew it was you doing the writing.
But there are downsides to writing without anyone knowing it is you doing the work. Here are some things you might wish to consider before choosing this option:
- Problems getting paid
Contracts are very clear, and it takes a lot of work to get them changed after you signed them. You have to make sure your checks will be written in your real name, or you may have to legally change your name to your pen name to receive your hard-earned money.
If you have a lawyer, make sure they spot this issue before the contracts are finalized.
- Popular books do not give you recognition
If you want to be famous, writing anonymously is not the way to do it. Especially if your book hits the bestseller lists, no one will know that you are the author and you may have to dig out that rough draft to prove it.
- The lack of credibility
People get suspicious when they know the author has the talent and yet refuses to use his own name. They want to know why he or she did that, and every detail of your content will be questioned and given a negative going over.
- It is challenging to remain anonymous
Back in the day, when Robert Ludlum or Earl Stanley Gardener wrote their famous works, it was easy to remain anonymous. There was little chance their readers would find out their real names and secrets were closely guarded.
NOT anymore, not with technology and social media interfering in just about anything an author does. All it takes is just one slip by a friend or family member, and your secret is out. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets are not your friend if you want to keep a secret. Especially Facebook and Instagram which are known for suggesting your profile to "people you know" or telling everybody you have just registered on their platform under this account (insert your new top-secret pen name here).
Then if a friend gets mad at you and wants to get even, watch out. Your secret will be around the world in seconds. Plus, it will be verified just as quickly. If you want to remain anonymous, do not tell anyone your secret.
How to remain anonymous forever
There is only one sure way of remaining anonymous, even in this technologically driven world. Pen names or even using the word 'anonymous' is not a foolproof way of remaining behind the scenes and keeping people knowing it was you who wrote their favorite work.
The only way to remain anonymous forever is for you to become a ghostwriter and get paid for your talent without the legal hassles that come with publishing a book. Who you write for will have the headaches mentioned above, and the credit, while you remain the anonymous writer no one knows about- ever.
Don't be upset or worried about this career option. You will still make money, and you will still be a published author, you can still tell your friends you wrote the b0ok but, you won't get the credit, the best seller revenue or other perks with being an author.
Some final words
The choice is yours to make. While the process is the same if you use a pen name or your real name, getting paid is going to be difficult, and there are other difficulties you must be ready to accept if you take the anonymous route.
Or you can just become a ghostwriter which is nothing to laugh at. Most ghostwriters make a lot of money, and they do not have to put up with any of the hassles that come when the book becomes very popular. All they do is write the content with a large amount of freedom.
Either way, you will still be a published author.